Some advice I’ve heard in my quest to be a better writer. Go to a bookstore and see where your book would be located. Analyze your competitors and who and what’s nearby. But I prefer looking at it differently. Who would be your next-door neighbors? And would you get along or search for a pen name to move out as soon as physically possible?
I wandered through the general fiction aisles at my local library to see where “Stensgaard” would be shelved. My book and author neighbors were thrilling and unexpected. I could imagine the three of us having a drink at a bar discussing whatever crossed our minds. Perhaps they would even share with me some real world, helpful advice!
On my right, would be Frenchman Henri Beyle Stendahl (1783-1842). Stendahl was a pen name, but he would still be my neighbor. He started out an auditor for the French Government just like me for the Fed so we have something else in common already. Then he was in Napoleon’s army and participated in the ill-fated invasion of Russia. Luckily he survived it by not taking a questionable bridge smartly thinking for himself. And on top of that in the midst of war, he shaved daily. A man who takes care of himself!
He lived in Germany and Italy besides France and taught himself English. (A good thing since my French is awful and Stephens may not be much better.) He was a high society Parisian playboy, wrote a treatise On Love, and was empathetic towards women. A prolific writer, he wrote almost everything: novels, novellas, autobiographies, biographies, and non-fiction. Often in love, sadly he never married. His last few years were debilitating from the effects of syphilis and the medical treatments. A few hours after collapsing on a Paris street he died. Poor guy.
A more modern man, James Stephens (1882-1950), would be on my left. He wanted to be a soldier, like Stendahl but was rejected for being under 5’ tall. He was often called “Tiny Tim.” Not very nice! An Irish poet and novelist, Stephens wrote whimsical Irish fairy tales with leprechauns for grownups including The Crock of Gold on the shelves at the library. Not to be outdone by Stendahl, he published many collections of poetry and novels including a book about the 1916 Dublin uprising and the execution of one of his friends. He too never married, but his cause of death wasn’t disclosed. I hope that poor leprechaun on the cover isn’t in trouble with the Irish police.
What great fun the three of us might have together, and the new story ideas from our proximity and inevitable discussions. What better mix could there be than some romance from Stendahl and whimsy via Stephens? Or should I say, Henri and Jimmy? We’d probably have some heated debates, even fights. Not unexpected with our cultural differences and time-period and age gaps. But I’d do my best to keep the peace so we could stay together for many fun and lively years. I checked out their books so look forward to getting to know them better.
Who are your author neighbors? Would love to hear about it.